Restaurateur Claudio Pulze has been hugely influential in the industry over the last 36 years, opening 50 restaurants including Aubergine, Zafferano and Brasserie St Jacques. He is the founder of restaurant company Cuisine Collection and event caterer Vinum, which have the exclusive contract to supply catering at Vinopolis.
I came to the UK from Bermuda in 1975. I was only supposed to be staying in the UK for a few months and then fly to America to start my career in the restaurant business, but a friend of a friend was opening a restaurant in London – Montpeliano - so I decided to get involved with that. It was the first London restaurant I ever opened. The rest is history really.
Nothing beats the feeling you get when you find the perfect site, the perfect team and then design and open a restaurant. A lot of people at my age have a traditional hobby like sailing or golf – this will always be my hobby.
The key to overcoming obstacles is patience. The last major restaurant that I opened just over two years ago was built completely from scratch and it took six months just to get connected to the electricity grid.
There are many people for whom I have tremendous respect within the industry - Alan Yau, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – to name a few. My inspiration came as a 15 year old when my father sent me to work in a local hotel in Turin, Italy, as punishment for being bad at school. I fell in love with the glitz, glamour and delicious food in the restaurant and I knew then that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
In the early nineties the industry became much more focused on chefs - that was when I started working with Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton. The digital age also means that now everyone is a critic so restaurants have to look after every customer equally, which is, of course, how it should be.
The restaurant business in London has become a lot like the Premier League. Over the last few years there have been a lot of rich, foreign businessmen buying restaurants because they have the money to spend but don’t necessarily care about the industry or making a profit. When you don’t have to worry about making a profit it makes it a lot easier but in my opinion you lose the focus.
You have to keep adapting to stay afloat. You have to decide whether to sink or swim. I am still heavily involved in the restaurant scene with Cuisine Collection and the destination restaurants at Vinopolis but having Vinum take over the event catering at the venue as well was a natural transition.
Event catering is a huge part of the industry and many well-known chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal are now realising the importance of it as well.
I am working on a few different projects at the moment. Obviously Vinum has just taken over the event catering at Vinopolis as well as running the destination restaurants but we are also working on a new Italian restaurant concept there which is due to open In February next year.
To succeed in the restaurant industry you need to have passion, work hard and have a great deal of luck. No secrets!
I don’t regret anything. There are some things that I may have done a bit differently but I think it’s very sad if you get to my age and have lots of regrets.